BOZEMAN — There was a lot of concern regarding this year’s wrestling season due to how much of a close-contact sport it is, but with a detailed set of guidelines put in place by the Montana High School Association, wrestlers at Bozeman High were able to hit the mats for the first time this week.
Coach Sean Dellwo never imagined taking over as the Hawks' head coach during a pandemic, and while that’s made the transition a little bit more difficult, following health precautions is something the sport of wrestling is already accustomed to.
“We have to make sure we’re as clean as possible because you have all those things you have to deal with anyways," explained Dellwo, who came from nearby Belgrade to Bozeman High after former Hawks coach Nate Laslovich took over the wrestling program at Bozeman Gallatin. "Wrestling is ahead of the game as far as that goes.”
The Hawks will be doing what they’ve always done to prevent any possible outbreaks, like ringworm, throughout the team, but they’ll just be doing more of it to account for COVID-19.
"We’re wearing our masks when appropriate," added Dellwo. "The other change that we’re doing is we’re wrestling in groups more, keeping kids in small groups, and that way that’s really good for contact tracing."
Not much will look different in terms of quality on the mats this season, but there are some significant changes to the format, like the absence of tournaments.
“We’re going to wrestle duals," explained Dellwo. "They can get up to two matches per day and they have to change singlets in-between those matches.”
Because of the implications regarding this year, the Hawks have seen less of a turnout for this upcoming season, but they are excited about the return of reigning state champion Avery Allen. Allen won the Class AA 132-pound championship as a freshman last winter.
"It was really fun to watch him. It wasn’t so fun to have to wrestle him last year. I’m glad he’s on my side this year," joked Dellwo. "He’s already been working. He’s been putting in some offseason work, and I’m excited to be coaching him."
As the Hawks prepare for their first match, which is set for Jan. 8, Dellwo’s message is simple: embrace adversity.
"We wrestle in adversity all the time. You’re always competing. You’re always getting put in positions you don’t want to be in. You have to get uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s just kind of our M.O.," he said. "We’ll survive and persist and do all the things that wrestlers do. We’ll have a great season.”